Thursday, April 11, 2019

Christopher Bakken's Special Octopus on The Tattooed Poets Project

Today's tattooed poet is Christopher Bakken, who shared this photo with us:

Christopher's tattoo has a great origin story:
"The original line drawing for my tattoo was done by famed cookbook author, chef, and artist Mollie Katzen (best known for The Moosewood Cookbook) who kindly agreed to fashion some illustrations for my 2013 culinary memoir Honey, Olives, Octopus. It was the first drawing she sent me in the initial stages of production and I liked it so much I decided it should be with me permanently.  It was inked by Mike of Mad Mike's Tattoos (@mad_mikes_tattoo_n_piercing) in Meadville, Pennsylvania. 
The tattoo is a daily reminder of my relationship to Greece (the real and imagined landscape of so much of my poetry) and specifically the Aegean Sea. I spend my summers on the island of Thasos, which means for most of the year the tattoo reminds me of my painful distance from that place. As a cook, I believe in being in close contact with the sources of my food; in a place like Thasos, that's an easy ambition to attain, since it's possible to source exquisite produce and seafood without traveling more than a mile. An amateur spearfisherman, I spend as much time as possible underwater, gathering sea urchins, fish, and taking an octopus now and then. Of all the creatures in the sea, I most love the octopus for its intelligence and otherworldly beauty. Unfortunately for them, octopus are also delicious. But the single octopus on my arm reminds me to only take one at a time (if they are in season and the kitchen asks for it) and to respect the creature and its habitat."
Christopher also sent us a related poem from his most recent book, Eternity & Oranges (Pitt Poetry Series, 2016):

Troppo Mare
Troppo mare.  Ne abbiamo veduto abbastanza di mare.
--Cesare Pavese

You already tried to drown me three times.
          Yucatan.  Thasos.  Crete.

And I admit I deserve your violence.
Too much doubt.  Too much surface weight.

But I resent you even more tonight
for what you did, just now, before dark:

such redundant perfection, going beyond blue
to blood-purple past the escarpment,

spilling me and the whole island off your ledge.       
I’ve had too much of abundance.

I’ve had too much of you, sea.
Too much of your clarity.  Too much depth. 

Still, I steady myself from this height
for another dive, stubborn as that crab

whose torn leg you carved out with your tongue.
I rescued it from the bottom this morning,

a lock of sea grass still tangled in the claw.
I have clung like that, watching my fingers slip.

Take every hollow carapace and shattered limb,
grind it all to nothing, along with me.

Before then, let me surface once again.
          I ask, in the holy name of what is less.

~ ~ ~

Christopher Bakken is the author of three books of poetry--most recently Eternity & Oranges--as well as a work of nonfiction, Honey, Olives, Octopus: Adventures at the Greek Table. He teaches at Allegheny College and is director of Writing Workshops in Greece: Thessaloniki & Thasos and Culinary Crete.

Thanks to Christopher for sharing his cool tattoo and wonderful poem with us here on Tattoosday's Tattooed Poets Project!

This entry is ©2019 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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